How to Support Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies begin their northward migration in early spring, when they leave their wintering grounds in Mexico. Along their migration routes in the U.S., the Monarch female seeks milkweed plants, upon which to deposits her eggs. Milkweeds, or plants in the Asclepias genus, are the exclusive host plants for Monarch butterflies. Monarch caterpillars will feed and survive only on plants in the Asclepias genus.

Milkweeds are their host plants, but Monarchs need other flowering plants, as well. Nectar from a variety of native wildflowers provides the fuel needed to sustain the adult butterflies through the summer breeding season, and see them through their migrations. Make sure to include both milkweeds and nectar plants in a Monarch waystation plan.

A one hundred square foot garden is a good size for Monarch support (10'x10'). Alternatively, a few well chosen native plants may be added to an existing garden. The top three elements needed for a Monarch Waystation are:

  1. LOCATION. A good butterfly spot receives 6 hours or more of full sun a day. Ideally, the location will give shelter from the wind as well. The sunny side of a garage or along a solid fence in the sun offers enough protection. Any well-drained soil is acceptable.
  2. HOST PLANTS. Include at least two species from the Asclepias genus (milkweed or butterflyweed) for host plants. Plant a group a of each species. For example, a group of 3 Butterfly Weed plants, plus a group of 5 Sullivant's Milkweed plants. The Asclepias species that you choose will depend upon your soil:
  3. NECTAR PLANTS. Adult Monarch butterflies need nectar from a variety of native plants. The nectar provides energy to the adult butterflies and fuels their flight. Fall-blooming natives such as asters and goldenrods are very important. The Monarchs need as much fuel as they can get on their long flight back to Mexico, in the Fall. Our list of Monarch Favorites includes many of their favorite nectar plants.

Now Select Your Plants!

Each of these options includes both host plants (milkweeds) and nectaring plants.

  • Pre-Planned Monarch Habitat Gardens. We’ve done the planning for you! Our pre-planned Monarch Gardens include a planting design, instructions and high plant diversity. Just choose the size and soil type that best fits your site.
  • Shop for individual plants from our list of Monarch Favorites. If you're looking for a few Monarch magnets, all of the natives on this list are highly sought by Monarchs, including both host and nectar plants.
  • Monarch Sanctuary Custom Kit. Available for a limited time. Fill a 32-Plant tray with your choice of Monarch Favorite plants and save 25% on plants.
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